In January 2010, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruled that municipalities have to consider the needs of everyone - including people with disabilities or on social assistance - when making bylaws. Two bylaws stopped new non-profit and supportive housing from being built in the Cedar Hill neighbourhood in downtown Kitchener. The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and other groups objected, and the OHRC intervened and made the argument that the OMB had to apply the Code when considering the case.
The OMB said the City of Kitchener did not look at the impact of their actions when it decided to pass these bylaws, which negatively affected people with disabilities or on social assistance by restricting the housing options available to them.
The City of Kitchener has been sent back to the drawing board to look at this impact, and redraft the two by-laws as well as an amendment to the City’s Official Plan.
This decision will have an impact on municipalities across Ontario. The OHRC wrote to municipalities to advise them of it and to encourage them to apply it to their individual operations. The letter outlined the facts of the case, and added:
The OMB indicated that the Code appears to prohibit by-laws and planning instruments that have discriminatory effects on groups protected by the Code. A municipality that seeks to justify a discriminatory by-law might be expected to demonstrate that the by-law was established in good faith, was reasonable, and that real and substantial efforts were made to accommodate the needs of persons who were adversely affected.
The OHRC will continue to work with municipalities to eliminate systemic discrimination in housing.